One day in the mid-nineties, my memoir done, I looked up from the past and noticed, with a jolt, that my Brooklyn street seemed changed, not physically, but in meaning. This Invasion of the Body Snatchers intimation grew to the point that, eventually, I set out to track it down, roaming the country, asking of a variety of places--the Kentucky Bluegrass, Youngstown Ohio, Edge Cities: what defines you, where am I, truly? Landscape is our great book of revelations, half written by ourselves but not always knowingly. It is our mirror and seer: our history book and Jungian dream. All human history, all quests and hopes, accomplishments, as wellas the fundamentals of our condition thread through the meaning of landscape. It is our book of everything, a Bible of a kind.
Down in the particulars of place, the answer to my question "what defines you?" was always the same; first the global economy--for work is always the first artist of landscape--, and then something larger: that we now live in a worldwide enclosure of our own making, a change that is both panoramic and infiltrative, that is inescapable, altering and re- defining the meaning of place everywhere. Climate, the internet, nukes, global trade: the components of enclosure are various, ranging from terrors to marvels, but each, in its way, has the same effect: it encloses. A place lover from way back, a person for whom landscape has always been a touchstone of everything from self to society to the unknown, I saw that I had to let go of my inherited understanding of what it was and begin to develop a sense of the world that is founded on acceptance of enclosure. The subject of "The Absent Hand" is the experience of enclosure itself: learning to see, feel, and know this new condition, allowing it to replace the old comforts of place as we once knew it; the steady thing under our feet, whispering of transcendence. "The Absent Hand" is an experiment in re-imagining our world.